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    Is India’s legal framework ready to deal with sexual violence in virtual reality? – The Leaflet

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    Shruti Shreya of The Dialogue says policy-based measures and tools are needed to regulate virtual spaces.

    did it Will I be punished if I simulate a real crime in virtual reality?

    Recently, an underage girl in the United Kingdom (UK)gang rapeWhile she was playing a video game in Meta's Metaverse, another digital avatar photographed her digital avatar.

    Police are currently investigating what is essentially the first rape case in the country.

    A similar incident occurred in 2007 with a female user of an online virtual platform. second life Suspicion of actual rape.She reported it to Belgian police, and a Brussels court heard decided Conduct patrols in cooperation with the Federal Computer Crime Unit second life.

    In 2016, a female user's digital avatar was allegedly compromised. groped Then he was chased around by the digital avatars of the villains.

    In 2022, another female user wants to know if her digital avatar is gang raped She was joined by a group of 3-4 people and even had her photo taken within 60 seconds of joining Metaverse platform Horizon Venues on Meta (officially Facebook).

    What is virtual reality?

    Virtual reality (VR) is an internet simulation of reality. This is best experienced through a virtual headset, which creates a deeper immersion into the virtual world.

    Metaverse is one of the largest virtual reality platforms created by social media giant Meta.This platform hosts: 400 million usersThey interact in real time through avatars that imitate and simulate real human bodies and features.

    Users can freely customize their avatars. However, the virtual avatar may or may not be inspired by the user's physical appearance.

    Do we need laws to protect virtual reality?

    There is a growing consensus on the need for legislation to regulate virtual reality because of its potential impact on real life.

    Most platforms have built-in features to protect users from harassment and other types of abuse faced by their avatars. Metaverse platforms like Horizon Venues have safety tools for users, including options to block and report avatars.

    Meta's Horizon has a “safe zone” where users can activate a bubble around their avatar if they feel threatened.

    Apart from that, Meta “Hand harassment measures' If the avatar invades someone's personal space, the hand disappears.

    However, Shruti Shreya, Senior Program Manager for Platform Regulation and Gender and Technology, dialogueThe research institute, a policy think tank, says these measures are not enough.

    She said the solutions provided by virtual reality platforms are non-negotiable, but require additional policy-level protections.

    Shreya explained that cases of sexual violence in virtual reality have serious implications in real life. For example, in a British case, a minor suffered psychological damage after being effectively gang-raped.

    In this regard, she added:As social media and the internet are integrated into real life, what happens on virtual platforms no longer stays there. It has a direct impact on social, emotional and physical health.

    Leaflet We asked whether the possibility of psychological harm could serve as a criterion for extending the law that normally applies when physical harm is caused.

    Shruti replied that the two concepts are different but not unrelated. She says that to address the psychological harm caused by virtual reality, the law needs to evolve to accommodate a “new age of crime”.

    Can the laws of the real world be extended to virtual reality?

    In the real world, criminal law considers the human body to be inviolable, but existing laws may not be prepared to apply the same standards to digital avatars.

    of Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act) regulates certain cyber crimes such as cyber theft. on the other hand, Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) may also be extended to cases of cyberstalking. However, these laws do not apply in the case of simulations of real crimes committed in virtual reality.

    shreya said Leaflet At the moment, there is no possibility of extending IPC to virtual reality, since criminal law only applies to living humans, and digital avatars are not considered living humans.

    of Bharatiya Nyaya (2nd) Samhita, 2023Soon, the legislation replacing the IPC will also no longer apply. This is because the law continues to define crimes in the traditional sense.

    Regarding the IT Act, Shreya said there is no direct reference to digital avatars in the bill. However, certain provisions of the IT Act, such as the act of violating the privacy of other avatars by intentionally or knowingly taking, publishing or transmitting images of other avatars' private areas without their consent, under Article 2 This is a violation. 66E (Punishment for privacy violation).

    Other provisions of the IT Act applicable to instances occurring in virtual reality are: 66C (Punishment for identity theft) 67 (Punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form); 67A (such as penalties for publishing or transmitting content containing sexually explicit conduct); and 67B (Punishment for electronically publishing or transmitting material depicting child sexual acts, etc.).

    Shreya added that these provisions could only apply if a digital avatar is considered an extension of a living person's identity.

    In India, the right to privacy is recognized as a fundamental right. Justice KS Puttaswamy (retired) Anr v. Union of India Ors. (2017). Currently, this right is regulated by: Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023.

    Shreya pointed out that the Digital Personal Data Protection Act may also be considered if the privacy of digital avatars is violated.

    was suggested Digital India Act, 2023 It replaces the IT Act.

    shreya said Leaflet The Digital India Act, if enacted into law, could provide some clarity on virtual reality crimes by providing a framework to address online safety issues.

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